Baftas 2013: going behind the scenes (and taking your audience with you)

bafta 2013

What can arts organisations learn from the digital team behind Bafta? It’s about collaboration, online networks and content.

The EE British Academy Film Awards is the UK’s biggest celebration of film, but while the name Bafta is synonymous with the glitz of our awards, what a lot of people don’t know is that we are a charity running a year round programme of learning and events. Our remit is to support, develop and promote the art forms of the moving image and we face many of the same challenges as other small cultural institutions and arts charities.

As digital communications manager, it’s my job to oversee all of Bafta’s online networks and deliver on our year round digital strategy. So with the 2013 awards ceremony just around the corner, here’s a rundown of how we prepare for the huge peak in interest and live online coverage on awards night – some of it might prove useful for other arts organisations putting on their own events (and performances).

Building up to awards night

We started planning our digital activity for this year’s film awards well before Christmas, considering what the promotional campaign will look like and what sort of content we want to produce for it. You can never start planning too early – it’s amazing how quickly nominations day comes around and those few extra meetings back in November always prove to have been a good idea.

One of the trickiest but most beneficial things to implement during the planning stage is effective collaboration with external stakeholders. Keeping across everything that’s going on internally is one thing, but ensuring that we are supporting the digital campaigns of each one of our partners is also essential.

When planning the online activity for a large and popular event it’s really important to look outwards beyond your own network and think about how you can work closely with others to aggregate effort and increase impact. Working with partners to approach a variety of networks with a coherent, unified message can really help to leverage the effectiveness of your campaign.

Working for a culture charity, you definitely notice the change of pace when it comes to collaborating with commercial partners, but it’s really exciting because with their support comes more opportunity to do bigger and better things. This year EE are setting up a multi-camera 360-degree live stream from the red carpet, and Disaronno are filming behind the scenes at the awards after party for the first time ever.

Creating a coherent promotional campaign

This year our awards anticipation campaign centres around the tag-line ‘Share The Moment’ – people tune in to watch the show because it’s something they really want to be part of it. Our tagline features prominently on ourprint advertisements and cinema ad reel but what I love about digital is getting to explore the concept more deeply. The campaign really comes into its own with all the opportunities for content creation and audience interaction.

We took the tagline and drilled into it by considering what moments our audience might like to share. People get excited but the Baftas for all sorts of reasons and it’s important we’re engaging with everyone. We took the concept of moments and themed them according to the broad reasons people are likely to tune in on awards night: suspense, talent, celebration and style.

From that we created bespoke content around each of these strands to seed out to targeted online communities in the weeks leading up to the awards. We’ve produced video montages, Pinterest boards and tagged tweets with specific hashtags for each theme. Building good relationships with bloggers has really helped us reach audiences we don’t normally engage with, such as fashion and beauty enthusiasts.

Content is something arts organisations don’t always think of around their own performances and events but it can be so much more effective than simply plumping for straight-up advertising. Interviews, insights and exclusive behind the scenes footage adds a real buzz and gives your audience special access – something they can’t get anywhere else. If the content’s good enough, they’ll keep coming back for more.

And the awards goes to…

So its awards night – what’s in store? For starters my heart is usually racing; this is the biggest night of the year for us and if previous years are anything to go by, web traffic will sky rocket, #EEBAFTAs will be trending on Twitter and our social network follows and engagement demands will soar. The pressure to make the most of the opportunity is intense and keeping all things digital running smoothly is essential.

The web team is split into three with each group looking after a specific area of content. My team is based off site over at an editing house in Soho. Rushes are biked over from the Royal Opera House (once again the awards venue), where the video content is edited and uploaded to our website and YouTube.

Then there’s a small team of two in the press room at the Royal Opera House. These guys have a live feed of the ceremony so are among the first to hear the winners announced – it’s down to them to get the word out with live winner tweets, Facebook and tumblr posts as well as updating the website with up-to-the-minute, accurate information.

Finally there’s the backstage team who look after photography. These guys have a pretty enviable position just behind the scenes at the Royal Opera House, casually seated among some of the biggest A-list names as they wait backstage. This team are responsible for getting photos cropped, captioned and uploaded to the website. By all accounts it’s very much a heads-down and crack-on affair, but I hear it can be a little distracting when Brad Pitt brushes past on his way to the podium.

It’s important not to be blinded by the familiarity of the occasion and to consider the full suite of content available to you. Don’t forget how exciting and unique your event will be to an outsider – you have access to some amazing insight that will be fascinating and valuable to your audience. Providing them with a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes (even showing them how things are done, like this post) is easy content to provide, but really rewarding for anyone engaging with the event online.

One of the best opportunities Bafta has for exclusive access content is coverage of the red carpet. As the stars arrive I snap away on my iPhone, sharing pictures and news of the latest arrivals on Instagram and Twitter. Of course there are teams of professional photographers taking the polished pictures, but people expect immediacy and the rough and ready shots give that sense an insider’s view.

The event is also a really great opportunity to talk about Bafta’s work beyond the awards. This might seem obvious, but it’s an important thing for arts organisations to consider when delivering your own large-scale event, performance or festival. It’s a missed opportunity if you don’t leverage the occasion to publicise your year-round programme and bring new audiences to other initiatives.

All in all there’s plenty to keep us busy and it’s certainly a long night that continues into the early hours of Monday. With a little luck this year, I might make it for the last half an hour of the after-party. Perks of the job!


Written by MTA member, Pippa Irvine